Every year a handful of friends, family members and co-workers who have never run before decide to become runners. No matter what gets them going, once they commit, running quickly becomes a major part of their life. They want to talk about gear, races, training, etc. This is great. The more people that are out running the better.
Unfortunately a lot of these folks turn into the kind of runners that annoy me. Initially I try to gently nudge them away from their bad habits but things rarely change. Running has awakened a part of their personality that I want nothing to do with. Running is my meditation, my happy place. Please don’t ruin it.
Your pace is a very individual thing. Maybe you’re running 15 minute miles when you start and work your way down to 12 minute pace. This might be your happy place. Your plateau. Everyone’s body is different. Some people start running and quickly entire elite status. They are winning age group awards and qualifying for Boston. This is genetics.
Sure there are some people that just aren’t pushing to their potential but that’s not what I’m talking about. My body is not ever going to run a 4 minute mile. No matter how much I train that isn’t somewhere that I will ever end up. When I line up for a race I’m not racing the other thousand people that are registered for the race. I’m running my own race and they are running theirs.
Sure I’m competing with people around me that run the same pace as me but ultimately it’s the clock that I’m racing. I’m trying to beat my previous best. I don’t really care about the other runners. How they finish doesn’t affect me. I don’t know most of the people running the race. They have no impact on my life. Unless the same 1000 people are running every race I enter, where I finish overall is pretty arbitrary.
I won’t lie and say that I don’t pay attention to where I finished in my age group or sex but it’s not as important to me as my time. Maybe I was in the top 50% of runners in my age group one year and the top 40% the next year for the same race. That might be something to celebrate.
Nothing annoys me more when someone says: “you’re probably faster than me”. I’ve only been running for a few months.” That is stupid. Maybe I am faster than you but that has nothing to do with how long I’ve been running. Unless we have identical genes and lifestyles we won’t progress or finish at the same place. Maybe you started running at 10 minute pace and and will work your way down to 8 minute pace. Who knows.
Never assume that someone is fast or slow based on how long they have been running because those are relative terms. I am faster than I used to be but that still might be very slow to you. My bad race might be someone else’s PR. I’m ok with that. If you aren’t okay with that that’s ok too but if you can’t shut up about it and are constantly comparing yourself to strangers or passive aggressively making other runners feel inadequate then please find a new sport.
Worst yet are the self-deprecating runners. You’ve been running for years but when anyone asks you about running you immediately start putting yourself down. You say things like: I’m not a real runner. I’m not fast. I don’t do a lot of races. I only run X miles a week. I don’t run any further than Y. There is no line that you cross that makes you a runner. No magical pace or mileage that makes one person a runner and another not. Keep your insecurities to yourself.
I prefer to run alone but I run with a group once a week. There is always a person in the group who fits this profile. Usually this person runs my pace or faster but quickly puts them self down when introductions are made. The only difference between me and this person is self esteem. But this person’s insecurities feeds the bias of the faster runners.
I had a friend who was running a marathon and was told by a faster runner who passed her that she should just give up. I see posts online about how races are becoming congested with “inexperienced” runners (inexperienced=slow). Or worst yet, there are races that adjust cut off times to exclude slower runners from participating. They are welcome to do that. I don’t want to give my money to a organization that doesn’t encourage everyone to get out there and move.
If you run regularly you are a runner. Embrace it. If you run fast good for you. Don’t be an asshole. If you have to put other people down to validate your accomplishments then you have a problem.